Naas man swims against the tide

The life of Art

Paul O'Meara

Reporter:

Paul O'Meara

Email:

paul@leinsterleader.ie

Naas man swims against the tide

Art in action

To borrow a couple of well-used lines from a Samuel Beckett play, Art Cooper’s best days are behind him. But he wouldn’t want them back, not with the fire in him now.

Art has taken to joining those hardy souls who swim in the iconic Forty Foot, arguably the country’s most famous sea swimming venue at Sandycove, Dublin, where people have bathed for nearly three centuries.

Now in his mid-60s, Art, who lives in Sarto Road, Naas, is a well around the town, cycling nearly everywhere.

The Christmas just gone wasn’t unduly cold, so he togged out for a dip. But you get the impression that more icy temperatures would not have deterred him.

“I started going up in November because it was somewhere to swim. I spend a lot of time during the summer months down in West Cork, where I swim and so I wanted to continue,” he says.

Art adds that the experience of swimming in the sea is invigorating anyway — and more so in the winter months.

He is much fitter than many men half his age thanks largely to a daunting exercise regime which includes membership of K Leisure, a facility he describes as a fantastic place. He also runs in the Curragh Camp as he has for many years with friends who are also retired Sean Dunne, Gerry Moran and Frank “Yonkie” McCormack.

And he used some of the expertise at K Leisure to prepare for his inaugural visit to Sandycove, turning to fitness expert Alan McCormack for an insight into how to handle low winter temperatures. McCormack is a coach with Swim Ireland, Ireland’s national governing body of swimming.m

“Basically Alan showed me what to do, starting with familiarising myself with cold showers, which are beneficial anyway as well as deep breathing exercises.”

He adds: “I found I was able to cope with the cold and in I went. I couldn’t say it was no bother to me but I could stay in for up to three minutes whereas Alan would do it for 15-20 minutes.”

Art says there are hardier souls than him out there pointing to the people aged 80 and 90 years who visit the Forty Foot daily.

“If they can do it, why can’t I ?”

“I feel a million dollars after doing it and I stay long enough in the water for my body to tell me when it’s time to get out, It truly is great for your health, including your mental health.”

Spending most of his working life as a driver in the ambulance service between Naas and Athy, he witnessed the immediate aftermath of many tragedies brought about by suicides, fatal motor accidents and the deaths of children in house fires. He’s experienced personal tragedy too through the loss of brother Noelie to suicide and his sister Mary to cancer.

This was a time when little or no counselling was available for those working in the emergency services.

As winter gives way to spring Art will continue to swim. And as the days lengthen he’ll be looking forward to returning to Owenahincha beach in Rosscarbery, West Cork, for some summer swimming.